The 1980s were a cool and oftentimes weird place for Television and the TV show B.J. and the Bear emphatically proves that point perfectly. In this new weekly column, we will be looking back through the archives of television and unearthing some truly near and near shows that have entertained us in the past.
There is no better way to kick off that with a short look at B. J. and the Bear, an American comedy series that tells the story of a trucker who journeys from town to town with his pet chimpanzee helping people along the way. Yes, and we aren’t making this shit up. Here are the opening credits for the show just in case you need a little visual proof.
The series ran for three seasons from 1979 to 1981 and was created by creative TV maestro Glen A. Larson, the same dude who gave fans shows like Battlestar Galactica, Magnum, P.I. and Knight Rider. The show was led by Greg Evigan who also starred in the serial comedy, My Two Dads and the budget thriller, Deep Star Six in the late 80s. In the supporting role was Bear, one of several chimpanzees, who accompanied the hero on his adventures.
B.J. and the Bear was born from the trucking craze created by shows such as Movin’ On and films like Convoy, Every Which Way But Loose and Smokey and the Bandit, all of which made trucking cool in the late 70s. But to add a new dimension to this story, Larson had the lead hero, Billie Joe “B.J.” McKay, partner with a simian sidekick to fight crime.
In each episode B.J. and his pal journeyed across America in a red and white Kenworth semi-truck, which suspiciously looks like Optimus Prime. Along the way, the duo would come across some hapless townsfolk or a usual damsel in distress who are mixed up in crime, in which they would be obliged to help out.
For 48 episodes, that’s what B.J. and the Bear literally did and it is a pretty amazing run considering how strange this show sounds. We can’t imagine the show being remade in its current form despite Hollywood’s penchant for reboots and remakes.
Still, we wouldn’t put it past them to reimagine the series into a film set in a post-apocalyptic future with the roles reverse with B.J. being the chimp that trucks across the wasteland of America with this human pet, Bear. We kid of course, but B.J. and the Bear did have a great run all things considered and it even had a theme song written by Larson and performed by Evigan himself.
B.J. and the Bear was also pretty marketable in terms of having its own line of lunchboxes and toy vehicles. It also managed its own spinoff too, The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo, which revolved around a Sheriff Elroy P. Lobo, a recurring character from the first season who locked horns with the dynamic truckin’ duo. But that’s leave that one for a future instalment of PassthePopcorn’s next Flashback Friday.